It’s commonplace now for the Lakers to have players in All-Star Weekend’s version of the “futures” game, the Rising Star Challenge presented by Sponsor X (is it still Sprite? Kia? I honestly don’t know). While the game has morphed into a US vs. the World format, the gist is the same. First and second year pros are chosen to play a glorified pickup game that features attempts at highlight plays, no defense, and a final score in the 150’s.
This year, the Lakers will send three representatives — Brandon Ingram, Lonzo Ball, and Kyle Kuzma. This is great and fun and I think all fans should enjoy this for what it is in its simplest form. Basically, the Lakers have good young players that the league thinks deserve to be highlighted in this format. I’m here for that. I love these kids and am happy to seem get this recognition. I mean, send Josh Hart too!
— Los Angeles Lakers (@Lakers) January 25, 2018
What I won’t do, though, is put much stock into this beyond that. You see, I’ve come to the mindset that while a trip to this game means something, it’s not necessarily what some want it to mean. Having players in this game doesn’t mean free agent stars are coming. It doesn’t mean the team has this bounty of future stars who will one day upgrade their participation in this Friday night game to the Sunday early evening one. That’s not how this works.
And that’s fine! It really is.
You see, the way you get FA’s to sign or, as an individual, make to the big-boy’s game on Sunday is to put in the work and get really damn good. This is hard and there’s a reason there’s snubs every year or teams who you think should be good an win a lot don’t or organizations who you think should get FA’s don’t (or, on the flip side, ones who you don’t think should get them but do).
There’s a status and stature and realization of talent which occurs. It is, to channel Sam Hinkie, a process. The Lakers have a nice group of young players I believe in. I think they’re going to be good and that, one day, they’ll prove to be good enough to be foundational players who can be draws to FA’s and play in All-Star games.
But that belief has little to do with them playing in this game or being recognized by the league in this way. No, that belief comes from their talent base, the work ethic they’re known to have, and their want to be great players in this league. So, I hang my hat on that, not on them playing in this game.
But I’ll sure as hell be watching it anyway. And hoping for Lonzo lobs to Ingram and Kuzma going supernova while I do.